By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bay Ridge civic leaders want the city to step on the brakes instead of driving through a controversial plan to reconfigure a long stretch of Fourth Avenue to make the heavily-crossed thoroughfare safer for pedestrians.
It’s not that the board doesn’t want the city to make an effort to increase safety along the Fourth Avenue corridor, members said. It’s just that they feel this particular plan is flawed.
At its meeting on Oct. 21, Community Board 10 voted to reject most of the elements of the plan put forth by the Department of Transportation (DOT) that called for several major changes on Fourth Avenue. The plan contained more than a dozen proposals. The board voted on each item separately.
The proposed changes in Bay Ridge include: removing a lane of traffic in each direction, adding pedestrian islands to the middle of the avenue, adding a bus lane, and eliminating left turns at certain intersections.
“It would create more problems than it would solve,” said board member Kevin Peter Carroll, who voted against most of the items in the plan.
DOT traffic engineers are also looking to install a fence along a one-block stretch of Fourth Avenue from 86th Street to 87th Street to prevent pedestrians from crossing the avenue at mid-block. Similar fences are up at several locations in Manhattan, including Sixth Avenue at 50th Street, where Radio City Music Hall is located.
DOT is seeking to redesign the entire length of Fourth Avenue, from Atlantic Avenue to Shore Road, and has spent months holding workshops and public hearings in the three community boards that the avenue runs through. Board 10’s vote was concerned only with the portion of the avenue under its jurisdiction: between 65th and 101st streets. The board was originally scheduled to vote in July, but postponed a decision when members said more time was needed to make an informed decision.
The New York Daily News reported on Tuesday that the Board 10 vote took place after a contentious meeting that lasted four hours.
Board members charged that the proposed safety measures would have the opposite effect by making the avenue, particularly the busy intersection of Fourth Avenue and 86th Street, more congested than it is now.
Instead of redesigning the avenue, the city should put more cops on the street to catch speeding drivers who are responsible for the unsafe conditions, board members said. “It’s a matter of enforcement,” Carroll, a member of the board’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, said. “One speeding ticket will do more to make a driver slow down than all the other elements combined,” he said.
But the DOT plan did have vocal supporters on Board 10.
Bob HuDock reminded his fellow board members that the intersection of Fourth and 86th was the site of more than 55 accidents between 2006 and 2011.
Community Board Six in Park Slope and Community Board Seven in Sunset Park both approved the DOT’s plan when the issue came before their members a few months ago. Board Six, however, had first turned DOT down and then held a second vote where the plan was approved.
Brooklyn Daily reported that a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that Fourth Avenue is the third most dangerous thoroughfare in Brooklyn.
It’s not clear if the rejection the DOT suffered on Monday will halt the plan. Community boards, which are composed of non-salaried members appointed by the borough president and by local city council members, are advisory only. The DOT can ignore the board and move ahead with its ambitious plan to reconfigure the avenue.
The plan to revamp Fourth Avenue started off as an idea three years ago by outgoing Borough President Marty Markowitz. Markowitz said he wanted to turn the entire thoroughfare into a grand Champs Elysees-type of boulevard with tree lined sidewalks, wider curbs for pedestrians, benches, bike racks and trendy shops.
Markowitz brought in graduate students from New York University’s Urban Planning program to assist him in developing his plan.